[Escribí este texto en setiembre del 2011, a pocos meses de volver a vivir al Perú luego de vivir casi nueve años en New York. Algunos amigos lo acaban de resucitar y ahora me parece que es un elogio de la que fue -y siempre será- mi ciudad. Pensé abrir este blog con este texto pero no me atreví, quizás porque está en inglés -el que fue mi idioma de esos años- y mi vida cotidiana se re-inscribía entonces con fuerza en el castellano. Ya no importa, sale a la luz casi tres años después de ser escrito.]
I recently finished Just Kids by Patti Smith, her book about her relationship to Robert Mapplethorpe during their early years in New York City. Patti’s account of those years, their commitment to art, and the hard life of contra-culture youths fascinated me. She is direct, vivid, candid, and delicate, while the story is complex, poetic, passionate, and irreverent. I loved imagining the Chelsea hotel in a 60’s and 70’s scene, the Village, the then young –but now gone- CBGB, and a myriad of well-known artists of that time. I revisited the city through her eyes.
Patti is such a good writer, in addition to being a singer, poet, performer, and leader of the underground -particularly punk- movement. I simply love that I can imagine the city in the 60's following Patti's autobiography, taking a peek at the life of a passionate artist -a personal hero- whose heart and strength do not grow old.
While the book revealed a more innocent and youthful Patti, it also reminded me of the times I saw her in New York when it was my city. An extraordinary voice and personality, she does not concede a centimeter of her politically outspoken being.
for somebody's sins
but not mine
I remember the first time I saw her singing Gloria. It rang so well with my anticlerical feelings; but more importantly, it was beautifully, perfectly, said.
The second time I saw her, at another free concert at Central Park, Patti spat media photographers. They were -as they usually are when covering famous singers- very close, almost between the public and her. She got tired and spat water on a couple of them; just once, but with manifest disdain. They retreated as Patti publicly made her point clear: she was not singing for newspapers' critics or readers, she was singing for us there. I was first shocked but then laughed, because I liked the fact that she was not singing for the cameras. And I also loved her voice and lyrics:
Because the night
belongs to lovers
because the night
belongs to us...
That's the only one I had heard before seeing her for the first time. But of course I didn't really know Patti, and I was just starting to know the city. And there is so much of Patti in New York! So much of her irreverence and creative commitment here and there. The city is intense and fiercely cosmopolitan, multicultural, confrontational, ghettoized, modern, elitist, underground, neoliberal, individualistic, tough, solidarian, solitarian, art-centered, politicized... The best place I've had to get to know me, and to get a sense of the world, and of the possibilities of coexistence within difference.
I’m so young
I'm so god damn young...
Her voice in the book is not quite like her voice in concerts, where she speaks and curses non-stop and talks against war and our money-centered world, calling for a different way of understanding power and signaling to change coming from the margins.
Do you like the world around you?
Are you ready to behave?
Outside of society
they're waiting for me
Outside of society
that's where I want to be
Jimmy Hendrix was a nigger
Jesus Christ and grandma too
Jackson Pollock was a nigger
nigger, nigger, nigger, nigger
nigger, nigger, nigger
From the margins, from outside the status quo, the ones that do not fit in see it and say it better, transforming anger and resistance into art. That has been her legacy and her vantage point; a rare and courageous perspective that inspires me in many ways.
What else can I say? I loved the book, I love her songs, I love the ways she makes me feel. Take a peek (watch the video and read the book).
Me gusta pensar en las intersecciones que hay entre política y cultura, y sus muchas ramificaciones.
Un blog de Carmen Ilizarbe